Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Food, The Weather, The Scenery, The Bliss!
I Must Be Dreaming (or in California!)

This past week I took a long overdue mini-vacation to Nevada City, California. I flew into Oakland, instead of the closer airport in Sacramento, because the fare and the rental car were so much less expensive. I actually enjoyed the extra two-hour drive, and it gave me the opportunity to stop in for a meal at Cafe Gratitude in Berkeley. After waking up at 5 AM to make my first flight to Seattle (where I changed planes), and getting into Oakland at about noon, I was feeling pretty hungry and already worn-out. So a menu full of juices, smoothies, and elixirs with names like "I Am Rejuvenated" and "I Am Enlivened" seemed like just the ticket to energize me. I also thought that choosing the "I Am Accepting" bowl of steamed Bhutanese red rice tossed with kale, avocado, cucumber, nori, scallions, and herbs in sesame-ginger sauce would not only be delicious, but would help ground me for whatever adventures (or misadventures, read: traffic) might greet me on the rest of my journey.

Just a scant two or three miles south of Nevada City, lies the city of Grass Valley, where I had planned to stop and pick up a few essentials at the BriarPatch Co-op. I was stunned at how large and beautiful this store was for such a small town. There are only about 12,000 people living in Grass Valley and perhaps 3,000 more in Nevada City.

The co-op had everything I could possibly want or need, including a lovely selection of my favorite So Delicious coconut milk beverages, yogurt, creamer, and kefir and Soyatoo Whipped Topping! (I bought some of the rice Soyatoo one night and in lieu of dinner, enjoyed it with a pint of large, juicy, sweet, and delicious organic strawberries! I thought the rice whipped cream tasted just as good, if not better than the soy.

I was treated to outstanding hospitality by managers Liza and Kurt at the delightfully quaint Outside Inn, where I rested in spectacularly colorful surroundings. "The Celestial Room" contained all the comforts of home including a mini-fridge and flat=screen TV. It even had glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling!

After such a long day of travel, I fell soundly asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow! I awoke to the sounds of birds gaily chirping and the sun shining! I couldn't wait to check out what would soon become one of my favorite hangouts in Nevada City—a a funky little vegetarian cafe called Fudenjuce!

It's large menu of fresh organic juices, wraps, salads, rice bowls, vegan soups, smoothies, and organic coffees and teas kept me coming back for more. Seth took great care of me, and made the most scrumptious hot carob beverages, Hawaiian smoothies, and Morninglory Breakfast Wraps!

My furry new feline friend, Minnow, kept me company while I waited for my breakfast to arrive.

One of the tastiest meals I had in Nevada City was at Ike's Quarter Cafe. It's by no means a vegetarian restaurant, but they had some impressive vegan offerings like vegan French toast and tempeh jambalaya. The dish I ordered is called the "Back to Health Plate," but eating it was so much more inspiring than the name implies. It's a large bed of gingered greens topped with tempeh in a perfectly seasoned roasted tomato sauce. It's served with a green salad with roasted tomato vinaigrette, and I ordered a slice of delicious gluten-free vegan cornbread to go along with it. I could kick myself for not having my camera along with me when I ate there!

This tiny town boasted both an oxygen bar and a raw cafe! I truly enjoyed my 30-minute vanilla oxygen experience at The Spot Oxygen Bar one evening after dinner. And the heavenly raw Raspberry-Lemon Cheesecake topped with Coconut Creme at The Fix was intoxicatingly delicious.

The Fix Raw Food Cafe and 33 Degree Boutique are housed in an impossibly adorable, modern-retro corrugated barn, where you'll find everything from eclectic jewelry and fun organic clothing to gourmet living foods all under one roof.

Even more deliciousness at The Fix! Raw chocolate truffles and blackberry white chocolate cheesecake?

After all those incredible breakfasts, lunches, and sweets, it's amazing that I could still be hungry for dinner! Well, there's always room for vegetarian sushi, isn't there? There are two sushi restaurants in Nevada City, and I chose Sushi Q because it looked so warm and inviting.

I was really happy that I did, because the sushi chef, Tokisan, was extremely accommodating and happy to prepare my special "Gail rolls" of inari, avocado, and cucumber. He did an amazing job, and they were even more delicious than the rolls I am able to get here at home!

Have you ever had a Thai massage? I never had, but it just seemed like my visit to Nevada City wasn't going to be complete until I had this experience. So I headed down Broad Street and made my way to Jindana Thai Therapeutic Spa.

I truly had no idea what to expect, but if I had to describe it, I'd say that Thai massage is like someone doing yoga to your body. Actually, yoga is one of the six points of Thai massage: Yoga, Exercise, Meditation, Reflexology, Acupressure, and Healing Art. It's quite unlike any other experience (massage or otherwise), and it's also quite wonderful! My massage therapist, Alex, had magical hands (and feet—I'm not kidding!), and as with any good healing modality, afterward, I felt both relaxed and invigorated and noticed a freeing of blocked energy within my body. My broken toe (don't ask), was significantly less painful the following day!

Nevada City boasts its own decent-size natural foods store, too: California Organics. I decided to try their restaurant, The Organic Grill for dinner on my last evening in Nevada City, as I was in the mood for vegan fajitas. They were quite yummy.

Brilliantly beautiful artwork by local artist Gary Dini covered was on display at the restaurant. His sculptural paintings combine acrylic with collage that utilizes costume jewelry. Each piece was more dazzling than the next.

Lest you think that all I did in Nevada City was eat and lie around letting someone else do lovely things to my body, I actually did do quite a bit of walking around town with my friend, Dana.

It was on such a walk that I discovered an amazing cocoanut tea at Gold Mountain Tea Shop, pictured below with Sol Sprouting Goji Rose Chocolate Love Spirals, (which I discovered at Fudenjuce).

On one sunny day, we took a lovely little hike along a meandering river. It was a little tricky to do with a broken toe. But Dana was a great sport, and she let me lean on her shoulder when we were walking downhill, so that I wouldn't further injure myself on any jagged rocks.

This was the view as I headed down Broad Street leaving Nevada City on Thursday morning. It took my breath away. I didn't ever want to leave this heavenly place.

After all that good eatin' it's a wonder I was still excited to get back to Oakland and have lunch at Manzanita Macrobiotic Restaurant. But this is a food blog, and therefore I must eat to write! On such a delightfully bright and balmy 65-degree-day, it was a joy to have lunch outdoors in the middle of winter. (I can't remember the last time I was able to do that!)

Chef Tenzin is a master of macrobiotic cuisine, and I knew this was going to be my last meal of the day...

So I ordered the larger "Full Meal," which included all of the following: Bean-Cauliflower-Cabbage-Broccoli-Miso Soup, Long Grain Brown Rice with Millet, Roasted Kabocha-Turnip-Yam, Garbanzo Beans with Onion-Leek, Steamed Kale with Shiitake-Beet Sauce, and a Mixed Green Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette.

On this trip I also met with two people I have known and admired for many years. Allison Rivers Samson, owner and founder of Allison's Gourmet and Tony Plotkin, president and owner of Grainaissance. But more about that in a later post.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Red Rose Petal Parfaits

If there is anything more romantic than a red rose, I simply don't know what it could be. We have a large red rose bush in our backyard that is so visually stunning, it seems almost dreamlike.

And when the roses begin to come into full bloom, I can't resist cutting one and placing it in a small vase in my bedroom.

I've learned that I must place my rose somewhere out of Thelonious's reach or else he will eat it, as he is so shamelessly demonstrating with this pink rose. (Can't say that I blame him!)

I love painting roses, whether on glass or paper. I even sport a rose tattoo, (which I won't reveal here).

I find the fragrance of a rose as intoxicating as lavender, and its flavor as sublime. So what could make a more romantic Valentine's Day dessert than one which captures the essence of red roses? I had all the ingredients necessary to put something incredibly sweet and delicious together, and came up with this idea: Red Rose Petal Parfaits!


1 1/2 cups evaporated cane crystals
1 cup of Organic Red Roses (I buy them from Mountain Rose Herbs.)
1 cup water
1 pint Purely Decadent Vanilla Bean Coconut Milk Ice Cream


Place all ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 45 minutes, until syrup has thickened. Remove from heat, and when cooled, strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Pour syrup into a squeeze bottle and place candied rose petals into a container with a tight-fitting lid. When ready to serve, alternate 2 scoops of ice cream with rose petal syrup in two parfait glasses. Top each with a few candied rose petals. Refrigerate remaining syrup and candied rose petals for up to two weeks. Candied rose petals can be enjoyed as a sweet treat, just like candy, and the syrup is divine on crackers or English muffins!

Viewed from above, you can really see the lovely candied rose petals.

I hope you'll enjoy these on Valentine's Day with your sweetheart.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Tempting Tempeh Too Good For Words Burgers

Eugene, Oregon has become quite the vegan magnet. It is the long-time home of Turtle Mountain, makers of the most incredible dairy-free ice cream, beverages, and yogurts on Earth, Holy Cow Vegan Cafe on the U of O campus, Lotus Garden Chinese Vegetarian restaurant, The Divine Cupcake, Holy Donuts, which has its own brand new storefront with an impossibly adorable outdoor courtyard, and two new vegan food carts: Viva Vegetarian Grill and Cornbread Cafe. Eugene is also the home of vegan chef extraordinaire Beverly Lynn Bennett, who together with husband Ray Sammartano, is also the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Living and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Cooking.

Always on the prowl for tasty vegan recipes I can "McDougallize," when I came upon Beverly's recipe for Tempeh Too Good For Words Burgers, it sounded too tempting to pass up.

Instead of cooking the onion and mushrooms in olive oil, I sautéed them in water. And instead of cooking the patties in a skillet with more oil, I baked them on a nonstick baking sheet in a 375° oven for 10 minutes on each side. For a gluten-free version, you can use wheat-free tamari and garbanzo bean flour instead of wheat or spelt flour. They'll still be just as delicious. Served up on toasted hearty whole grain buns with a side of tasty baked yam fries, this was one quick and satisfying weekend meal. And in case you're wondering if I ate mine naked, I could have, but didn't. I topped my burger with grilled onions and organic ketchup.